Tony Talks, Wanting to Make a Difference

Tony Abbott’s op-ed in the Quadrant smacks of ignorance and self-aggrandisement, of a man beating his own chest over the pleas of others in his own party. He writes as a man maligned and unrepentant, and even the title itself, “I Was Right on National Security”, reads a petulant response to all those who have criticised him – never mind the vicious, misogynist attacks he launched against Julia Gillard during his time in opposition. I hate to disappoint, after reading the article, I am still left with the impression that he was, and still is, very wrong on national security.

Abbott claims that “unlike France or Britain, we lack a colonial past to complicate the present.” I’m sorry, but what a crock of shit. We very much have a colonial past that many like to ignore, and this has been made all the clearer with all the recent hubbub over UNSW’s diversity toolkit, which include the apparently offensive statement that “Australia was not settled peacefully, it was invaded, occupied and colonised”. It must be noted that this toolkit was introduced and implemented four years ago, and at the time, did not attract as much attention as it is doing now. I have more thoughts about the colonisation/invasion/settlement argument, but I think I’ll leave that for a rainy day.

The rest of the article is a litany of his achievements, complete with poor attempts to spin his actions as prime minister into supposedly laudable achievements. There is a healthy dose of ‘look at all the hard work I put into making all of these decisions. Even if you disagree with what I ended up doing, you can’t blame me’. Whether or not the general public buys into this plea is yet to be fully determined – but I think it is quite obvious that Abbott is all about saving his own skin, and trying to remain relevant, trying to make his voice heard in an environment where it isn’t really quite welcome. I’d like to think that this kind of experience would make him more sympathetic or empathetic towards the plight of all those Australians who are ignored on a daily basis, whether it by other Australians or their government, but I’m not holding my breath.

He “suspects the Malaysian prime minister was pleasantly surprised with my apology for the way his country had become collateral damage in an Australian domestic argument over people-smuggling” – never mind the fact that this same prime minster is also currently under investigation for electoral fraud, and stealing thousands of dollars worth of superannuation funds from his citizens. He then follows this claim by stating he was “sure that the Sri Lankan president was pleased that Australia didn’t join the human rights lobby against the tough but probably unavoidable actions taken to end one of the world’s most vicious civil wars”. This is an ex-prime minister, touting his record against the facilitation of human rights as a positive – to, not surprisingly, round up international support in his campaign to stop the boats.

“This determination to make a difference, not just to strike a pose or to indulge in gesture, was at the heart of everything the Abbott government did”, he claims. Ironically, I would argue that this determination, manifest through his many actions and antics, may have resulted in the creation of more ‘poses’ or ‘gestures’ than he would have liked. It was difficult to take him, as well as a significant portion of his government seriously during his tenure. I feel like many of us were waiting for the next gaffe, the next almost-unbelievable headline, the next chance to make fun of Abbott, because that was all we could do, until we had the chance to vote him out (or watch him get ousted, I suppose).

He continues to call IS a “death cult”, brushing aside criticisms of his rhetoric in a manner that someone blissfully unaware of the enormous influence of language. I remember raising my voice in indignation, essentially yelling at my radio, when I first heard him use that phrase. After becoming more informed about the machinations and driving forces of IS, such rhetoric seems even more inappropriate.

Not surprisingly, the comments section is full of people who support Abbott’s views – though, to be honest, the comments section of any article isn’t really the best place to hang out. It reminds me that there are a significant number of people (more than I’d like to imagine) do genuinely support Abbott and the directions in which he planned to take this country. I’m all for healthy debate in this country, but it is genuinely difficult to open up a balanced discourse with bigoted people, and those who seem to be incapable of an open mind.

Abbott begins his second paragraph by stating “Australia is better placed than most of us imagine to make a difference in the wider world”. I don’t need someone like Abbott, who probably has rather strong feelings about people like me, to tell me that. I know Australians can make a difference in the wider world, and I know we can do this without offending people of other races, denigrating women, and ignoring scientific fact. I know I can make a difference in the wider world, even if it is only a tiny drop in a big, wild ocean.

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